Founder of Britain’s first black weekly newspaper “The Westindian Gazette” and the Notting Hill Carnival.
Growing Up wasn’t Easy
Claudia Jones was born in = Trinidad, on 15 February 1915. When she was nine years old, her family immigrated to New York City. Her mother died a few years after they moved, although her father found work the family lived in poor conditions and Jones developed tuberculosis, she developed heart disease which affected the rest of her life.
She was a smart girl, however due to being classed as an immigrant woman she was restricted in her career choices. Instead of going to college she did various jobs. She joined a drama club and began to write a column called “Claudia Comments” for a Harlem journal.
- She joined the American Communist Party (ACP) in 1936, as she attempted to support the Scottsboro Boys.
- In 1937 she joined the editorial staff of the Daily Worker and became their editor of the Weekly Review in 1938
- became editor of the American Youth for Democracy’s (Young Communist League USA ) monthly journal
- In 1953, she took over the editorship of Negro Affairs
Changes to Britain
As a result to her work with the public, she was arrested and sent to prison. She was to be deported back to Trinidad. She was refused entry to Trinidad and Tobago, in part because the British colonial governor thought “she may prove troublesome”, as a result she was offered residency in the United Kingdom on humanitarian grounds, and moved to Britain in 1955.
When she arrived in Britain she found that black people along with other minorities were still restricted in what they could do. She began to get involved in the British African-Caribbean community. She campaigned against racism in housing, education and employment.
in 1958 she founded the anti-racist paper, The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News (WIG). Four months after launching WIG racial riots broke out in Notting Hill, London. A few months later this was followed by the murder of Kelso Cochrane, who was a West Indian Carpenter. His killers were never caught; however it thought that it was a racial attack.
The Beginning of Notting Hill Carnival
Jones received letters from the community regarding the issue, and her thought was to “wash the taste of Notting Hill and Nottingham out of our mouths”.She suggested that the British black community should have a carnival; which happened in December 1958 (yes the winter, fortunately today it happens during summer). Jones used her connections to involve performers and entertainers, the event was even televised by the BBC.
Jones died on Christmas Eve 1964, aged 49, supposedly of a heart attack.
I was glad to find the story of a woman who
a) Became a huge public figure despite a difficult upbringing and having a life-long disease
b) Whose legacy still lives on
Notting Hill carnival has unfortunately found itself being in the spotlight for violence and a high crime spot. Nonetheless there is no doubt that this is an event which brings communities together, regardless of race or colour; age or income, whilst at the same time bringing London a taste of the African-Caribbean society; whether that be through dance, food or music.